Friday, August 29, 2008

Hamsters, Shells, and Spelling Bees: School Poems

In recent weeks, lots of people have found their way to Wild Rose Reader searching for “back to school” poems.” I have included the links to the following Wild Rose Reader posts from last August and September that have had frequent visitors:

Poetry Friday: Going Back to School with Poetry

Hamster, Shells, and Spelling Bees:
School Poems

Edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins
Illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa
HarperCollins, 2008

I thought I’d also write a review of Hamsters, Shells, and Spelling Bees: School Poems, a new I Can Read anthology edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins that elementary teachers may want to add to their classroom collections. This slim volume contains twenty poems about all manner of school-related topics from the school bus driver and teacher, library and art class, show and tell and preparing for a school play--to looking through a microscope, listening to a teacher read aloud, having the measles, and making maps in the classroom.

The anthology opens with a short poem entitled Ready.

by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Stars sleep as I wake
to this brand-new school day

It ends with Linda Kulp’s True Love, a poem about a child returning home from school at the end of the day to be welcomed by her purring cat. You can read Linda’s poem here at her blog Write Time.

The poems included in Hamsters, Shells, and Spelling Bees are short and easy to read. In addition to Dotlich, the authors of the poems include such well-known children’s poets as J. Patrick Lewis, Jane Yolen, Alice Schertle, and Lee Bennett Hopkins. There are also poems by less familiar writers.

Jane Yolen’s poem Maps would be an excellent one to share with students before embarking on a map-making unit. Here’s how the poem begins:

From Maps
by Jane Yolen

We are making maps:
maps of our classroom,
maps of our school,
maps of our town.
We let our fingers walk
the straight lines
from window to door,
down hallways
that gently curve,
along town streets…

Here’s a haiku that would be good to read to students before a poetry-writing activity. It was written by Alice Schertle, one of my favorite children’s poets.

by Alice Schertle

Pencil stub, I must
ask myself: How many more
poems are in you?

Hamsters, Shells, and Spelling Bees hits the mark for an I Can Read anthology of poems about school for young children. It has a good variety of poem topics and poetic voices. It’s a “comfy pair of slippers” kind of collection that, I think, early elementary teachers will enjoy having close at hand in the classroom--and one that most early readers won’t have to struggle to read independently. Sachiko Yosikawa’s colorful, uncluttered illustrations add to the humor and light-hearted tone of the poems.

At Blue Rose Girls, I have Three Songs at the End of Summer by Jane Kenyon.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Charlotte’s Library.

P.S. I’ll be in charge of the Poetry Friday Roundup next week.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Robert's Snow: In Memory and Gratitude

Today, on the first anniversary of the death of Grace Lin's husband Robert Mercer, I wanted to write up a post about a very special gift I received in the mail from illustrator Annie Patterson last December. Annie was one of approximately two hundred children’s picture book illustrators who created beautiful snowflakes for the 2007 Robert’s Snow auctions that raised money for the Jimmy Fund and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. I fell in love with Annie’s snowflake of a young girl holding a white rabbit painted on the background of a snowy winter scene.

Annie, who lives in Alaska, is the illustrator of Whale Snow, which was written by Debby Dahl Edwardson. Fortunately for me, I won Annie’s snowflake in the auction. After learning I had won her beautiful work of art, I left the following comment at this post on her blog Imagine and Create:


I am one happy lady. I won your snowflake yesterday! I knew I wanted it when I first saw it in the exhibit at the Child at Heart Gallery in October. I'm giving it to myself for Christmas.

Thank you so much for helping with Robert's Snow this year--and for making such a beautiful snowflake!!!

Soon after I left my comment, Annie emailed me and asked for my address. Then she sent me a gift: her original pencil sketch for the snowflake.

I was so touched by Annie Patterson's thoughtful gesture--as I was by the generosity of all the artists who contributed their talents to the Robert’s Snow campaign to raise money for cancer research--and as I was by all the kidlit bloggers who helped to spread word about the auctions, especially the fine ladies of 7-Imp…who went above and beyond the call of duty.

Jules & Eisha of 7-Imp

(Click here for a list of the artists and links to the illustrators’ Robert’s Snow features at different blogs.)

Today, I also want to send my heartfelt thanks to Annie Patterson and all of the artists who created snowflakes for the Robert’s Snow auctions in 2004, 2005, and 2007, to Jules and Eisha and all the of the bloggers who helped in our efforts to raise money for the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber, and to all of you out there who bid in the auctions.

And today, in memory of my dear friend Robert Mercer, I am re-posting a poem I wrote especially for him.

Things to Do If You Want to Be a Snowflake
by Elaine Magliaro

Fashion yourself:

a bit of lace,


spun in space

of silken ice,








Thank you, everyone.

Robert Mercer and Grace Lin

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back to School: Picture Books and Poetry

Here are links to websites with lists of recommended school stories.

New York Public Library: Back to School

The Horn Book Monthly Special: Back to School

Bank Street College of Education: Back to School Books

Children’s Literature: The Back to School Jitters
Monroe County Public Library (Indiana): Starting School Stories
Allen County Public Library (Indiana): School Booklist
Boston Public Library: Countdown to Kindergarten

Carol Hurst’s Children’s Literature Site: Kids’ Books Set in Schools

Pittsburgh Tribune Review (August 17, 2008): Back-to-school books arrive as summer ends

Reading Is Fundamental: Back-to-School Books

ScrippsNews (August 20, 2008): Classy back-to-school books for kids

Deschutes Public Library: First Day of School

Monday, August 25, 2008

Back from Maine

My husband and I returned last Friday after spending a great vacation week on Westport Island in Maine. The weather was perfect, the scenery beautiful, and the home where we stayed was lovely. Two couples, who are close friends, joined us for part of the week. We have known these four people for about fifty years. (Boy, am I getting old!!!)

Here are some pictures from Maine:

We don’t eat out at restaurants often when we go to Maine--but this year we found two fine places to dine--the Squire Tarbox Inn on Westport Island and Ports of Italy in Boothbay Harbor. The chef at the Italian restaurant hails from Milan--and his food was divine!!!

I spent time shopping at Edgecomb Potters for a wedding gift for relatives, birthday presents for my nieces, and some things for my daughter. I always bring back at least one piece of the beautifully glazed porcelain for myself every year, too. The Edgecomb Potters website doesn’t do the pottery justice. Each piece is handmade and unique. That’s why it’s such fun browsing through their displays for presents. Edgecomb Potters also has lovely jewelry.

Here are pictures of some of the pottery I have brought back from Maine over the years.

My husband and I have spent many summer vacations on the coast of Maine. I love renting a cottage/house and just relaxing, cooking, reading, and writing. This year I didn’t do any blogging from there. We had intermittent wireless connection…and then a computer virus struck. That made our third major computer problem in thirteen months--on three different computers. We also started having problems with our Internet connection at home yesterday. I hope that will soon be resolved. I think we should hire a live-in computer tech!

As you may have noticed, this has been a slow blogging summer for me. I have spent weeks cleaning my basement and closets…and throwing away lots of old clothes and other "stuff" I don’t need any longer. After spending three years as president of our reading council, I am happy now just to serve as a member of the board of directors and as our Speaker Series chair. I’m also completely retired. I will no longer be teaching a children’s literature course at Boston University. Those are two reasons why I could dispose of so much paperwork.

As I wrote in an earlier post, I hope to focus most of my energy and attention on writing poetry for publication. I also hope to get back into the blogging groove again.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Heading for Midcoast Maine

I thought I'd have time to prepare two Poetry Friday posts--one for Wild Rose Reader and one for Blue Rose Girls--but I've been extremely busy shopping, preparing foods (pesto, blueberry sauce for pancakes, blue cheese dip, mascarpone cream with bourbon vanilla, raspberry sauce, sundried tomato and basil spread with cream cheese and creme fraiche, smoked salmon tatare with a horseradish cream and basil sauce), and packing for our trip to Maine. We leave early this afternoon. I can hardly wait to get there. We'll be staying in the same beautiful waterfront home where we spent a week last September.

Here are some pictures I took while we we there last year:

For any of you out there who love the coast of Maine as much as I do, you'll probably agree that one children's book that truly captures the flavor of the place in both words and pictures is Robert McCloskey's Caldecott classic Time of Wonder. I was working on a post about the book this week--but haven't finished it yet.

Well, I must get ready to head north to go "Down Maine." Have a great week. I don't know if I'll be posting while I'm on vacation. It may depend on the weather.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Story of an Olympic Champion Who Faced Discrimination

Written by Paula Yoo
Illustrated by Dom Lee
Lee & Low Books, 2005

(This biography begins when Sammy Lee is twelve years old.)

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds is a picture book biography about an Olympic champion who overcame personal challenges in his life to achieve his dream of winning a gold medal in diving. This is also a book about racial discrimination in the United States and about an individual who honored his father’s dream of his son becoming a doctor.

Sammy Lee, born in California in 1920, was the child of Korean immigrants. Sammy dreamed of becoming an Olympic diving champion. Unfortunately, the public pool in his city only allowed “people of color” to use the facility one day a week. Fortunately, when he was eighteen, Sammy met a man named Jim Ryan who saw the young man’s diving potential. “Coach” Ryan even dug a giant hole in his backyard and filled it with sand so Sammy could practice diving into the sandpit on the days when he was not allowed into the public pool. Sammy enrolled in gymnastics at school to help develop stronger leg muscles. He loved diving and felt it was “the only world” where he belonged.

Sammy worked hard--at diving practice, at school, and on his homework. He earned all A’s, was voted the student Most Likely to Succeed, became the first nonwhite student elected student body president, and was even offered a full scholarship to Occidental College. Still, he could not attend his own senior prom at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium--which “only white students were allowed to enter.”

Sammy’s father also had a dream for his only son. He wanted Sammy to study to become a doctor. He told him it would be the way for him to earn the respect that he deserved. Sammy and his father “struck a deal.” Sammy would be allowed to continue diving as long as his college grades were good enough for him to get into medical school.

In 1943, Sammy’s father died--but Sammy was determined not to let his father’s dream die. Sammy took a break from diving. He worked hard and got “accepted in a special United States Army medical training program. He discovered he did have a passion for medicine and became a doctor in 1946.” That same year, Sammy entered the national diving championship and won the high-platform dive. Despite all of Sammy’s achievements, there were times when he faced racial discrimination: Once, he was forbidden from entering a restaurant with friends after a diving exhibition. And he was still restricted from using certain “pools except on assigned days.”

Sammy didn’t let this unfair treatment get him down. Instead, he worked hard to prove himself in the 1948 Olympics. And, sixty years ago in the Olympics at the age of twenty-eight, Dr. Sammy Lee became the first Asian American to win an Olympic gold medal.

From Paula Yoo’s Blog: Me & Sammy Lee! Celebrate the Olympics! (Posted on 8-8-08)

From NPR: An Excerpt from Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds

Anastasia Suen has the Nonfiction Monday Round-up at Picture Book of the Day.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Poetry Friday: Summer Haiku

I haven’t been posting much lately at Wild Rose Reader. My attentions have turned to other things in recent weeks--doing research for and writing a new collection of poems, cleaning out my basement and closets, and working on plans for the 45th reunion of my high school class and for our reading council’s 2008-2009 Speaker Series.

This morning I went looking for some drafts of summer haiku poems that I could post today. These are not polished haiku--but I HAD to post on Poetry Friday! By the way, our weather here in Massachusetts has been horrible this summer--damp, gray, cool, rainy. The forecast is for more of the same today. So…with this weather in mind, I wrote the first haiku a few minutes ago.

This August day
Sun has hobbled away
Sky seems old and gray

Luna moth
flutters around our porch light
thinking it’s the moon

Moths cling to our
kitchen screen, sunbathing on
a summer evening

Wafting into air,
campfire sparks…lightning bugs
dancing in the dark

Barefoot in dewy
grass, my toes drink the nectar
of a summer night


At Blue Rose Girls, I have a poem entitled A. M. Fog by Mark Jarman.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Becky’s Book Reviews.


Friday, August 1, 2008

Deep-Fried Dream: An Original Poem

I guess I’ve got eating on my mind this week. At Blue Rose Girls, I have a poem by Anne Stevenson and a brief post about food in poetry. Here, at Wild Rose Reader, I have a “poetic edible” I wrote not long ago. I hope the spirit of Wanda Gag won’t object to the manner in which I conclude my poem.

by Elaine magliaro

I see
Circles of deep-fried dough…
Dipped in honey
Dusted with cinnamon sugar
Covered with flaked coconut
Glazed with dark chocolate.

I see
Circles of deep-fried dough…
Frosted with maple icing
Sprinkled with colored jimmies
Filled with raspberry jelly, lemon custard, vanilla cream.

I see
Dozens of donuts,
Hundreds of donuts,
Millions and billions and trillions of donuts
Dancing around in my dream.


At Blue Rose Girls, I have a poem by Anne Stevenson entitled In the Tunnel of Summers and links to three of my other favorite poems.

The Poetry Friday Round-up is at The Well-Read Child.

P. S. Check out my Unlikely Titles post and suggest a few of your own “unlikely titles for children’s books.